10 Books That Have Rocked My Reading World
I am one of those writers who believes that to be a writer one must also, de facto, be an avid reader.
Over the years a huge number of books have rocked my reading world, but here are 10, some quite new, others of slightly longer standing, that sprang to mind when I thought of making a “more recent” list of favourites. (I note that some books may not be recent at all in terms of publication date; I may just have read them more recently. 😉 )
I’ve tried to provide at least one reason, too, as to why I found them awesome.
1. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman — what did I love? Why just about everything: dust, the alternate Oxford, daemons (aka souls-on-the-outside), armor-wearing sentient polar bears, Finnish witches. Perhaps most of all, the dichotomy between Lyra’s parents, one of whom epitomises responsibility without freewill and self-determination, the other freewill without responsibility.
2. A Game Of Thrones by George RR Martin — I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the worldbuilding and mythology, as well as the texture of the characters, regardless of whether they were good, bad, or (mostly) in-between. Oh yes, and impressed by the realization that main characters weren’t exempt from hazard, including death. Although this latter aspect has become somewhat overdone in the series as a whole (imho), in this first book it was just about perfect.
3. New Moon by Midori Snyder — I don’t see or hear people talking about this series much, which is a shame, because it’s brilliant. New Moon is the opening book and introduces a great cast of “all sorts and conditions” of women characters in particular. And a wonderful magic system based on the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.
4. The Beacon At Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw — as a kid I devoured Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction and Gillian Bradshaw’s Beacon was the natural progression in YA and New Adult style reading. Like Sutcliff (and Renault) Bradshaw has real historical depth but it’s always the characters and the story that speak, not her research. And the two leading characters in Beacon are just wonderful. (It might take you a while to figure out who the second one is but that’s all part of the fun.)
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — Dare to be different and all that but I’m definitely one of the crowd on this one. I loved Katniss’s voice and how as a reader I felt her agony through the emotional, physical and psychological brutality of the Hunger Games. I also really liked the story’s juxtaposition of the classical myth of Theseus and the tributes alongside our own era’s obsession with reality TV. Brilliant.
6. Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel — A different sort of post-apocalyptic novel, I loved the way this story spanned the pre and post apocalypse worlds and explored the effects of the loss of so many people, and civilization as we know it, in an emotional and human way, rather than focusing on violence and physical survival alone.
7. Hild by Nicola Griffiths — Another great historical read that opens up a seldom featured period of history—Anglo-Saxon Britain at the beginning of the Christian period—and major personality of the era, St Hilda of Whitby. Hild offers an absorbing and convincing interpretation of the early events that shaped the woman who later became St Hilda. Hild is an awesome character, too: a total 10, you’ll love her. 😉
8. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi — I know a lot of readers struggled with the brutality of this story, but I thought it was part of the realism of a dystopian future where corporations dominate governments, particularly in terms of genetic engineering and food production. I also liked the way cultural and religious influences were intertwined with politics, both positively and negatively.
9. Tokaido by Lucia St Clair Robson — this is one of those-not-so recently published books that it took me quite a while to get around to reading, but once I did I could only wonder why I’d waited so long. Tokaido is based around the famous history of the Forty-Seven Ronin, although it is told through fictional characters. The author not only brings the Shogunate era and the world of the famous Tokaido Road together, but like Gillian Bradshaw her characters — Cat, Hanshiro, and Kasane — and their stories are vivid and compelling.
10. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett — this was an amazing book for me, one that totally blew me away on first reading. It starts out with an attack by guerillas and I’ll admit to thinking then, “I know what kind of story this is.” Only it fooled me by being a totally different story, one that stretches you as a reader, and illuminates and saddens at the same time. In fact, “luminous” might just be the best single adjective in describing this story.